Since opening its first airport hotel in San Francisco in 1959, Hilton Hotels and Resorts today counts 380-plus properties worldwide, the most of any hotel company. Following last year’s debut of the spectacular Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Hilton is also expanding to Turkey with the Hilton Ankara Airport, and in the U.S. via the Hilton Raleigh-Durham Airport/Brier Creek.
In February 2016, Hilton published “Travel Trends: Rise of the Airport Hotel,” part of its “Blue Paper” series. With airport hotel demand up to 65 million room nights in 2015 from 55 million in 2010, feedback from thousands of business and leisure travelers surveyed for the paper revealed three key insights.
Firstly, most choose airport hotels principally for business and due to missed or inconvenient flights. Secondly, many connect “their satisfaction with their hotel stay and their ability to perform their job well.” Lastly, “negative perceptions of airport hotels are ingrained.” This was “especially true among travelers who have stayed at an airport hotel in the preceding 12 months,” with “boring,” “expensive” and “outdated” among their complaints.
Yet virtually all respondents were open to next-generation concepts, especially where “amenities and modernization are differentiators.” That being so, new properties like Schiphol offer an exciting new take-off position for airport meetings and overnights, as the following other new projects reveal.
Back to the Jet Age
Could the resurrection of the TWA Flight Center at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as the TWA Hotel inspire a new Jet Age in hospitality and events?
Opened in 1962, TWA’s original terminal, from master architect Eero Saarinen, has long inspired flights of fancy with its winged, spaceship-like body. Shuttered in 2001 and saved from demolition, this now-landmarked icon of what was then Idlewild Airport, like the proverbial phoenix, is reawakening as JFK’s first on-site, full-service hotel.
Targeting a late 2018 opening following groundbreaking in December 2016, key elements include 505 guest rooms housed in two new curving “wings.” The LEED-certified restoration will faithfully return Saarinen’s masterpiece to its Mid-Century Modern glory, including characteristic elements such as the sunken lounge, carpeted in his signature chili pepper red color.
Groups will have 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space, with amenities including roughly eight F&B concepts, such as revivals of TWA’s Ambassador’s Club, Lisbon Lounge and Paris Cafe; a 10,000-square-foot observation deck; and a rooftop pool.
Access from every terminal will be via JFK’s AirTrain, and Saarinen’s iconic passenger tubes will connect directly to Terminal 5. Thrilling, too, is the reported connection to a restored Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft with its own restaurant and bar.
With plans also calling for an on-site museum showcasing TWA’s and New York’s storied Jet Age legacy, groups can get a dynamic hotel preview at the event-ready TWA Lounge. Serving as a sales office, this glam space on the 86th floor of One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan features TWA exhibits, furnishings honoring Saarinen’s design and views of JFK 12 miles to the east.
As airport hotels reach for next-generation appeal, airports are seeing their own dramatic transformation. Singapore Changi Airport, gateway to one of Asia’s preeminent MICE destinations, is a model for the future.
Crowning Skytrax’s “World’s Best Airports” list for the past five years, and in the top three for the last 15 years, Changi, featuring green walls and specialty gardens throughout, redefines the passenger experience with stunning architecture, technology, dining and other amenities.